Vultures and Frostiness

IMG_2490Yesterday I worked for the day. Driving north toward Burlington I looked up to see three Turkey Vultures circling. I was so excited I had to pull over. Then I saw four Canada Geese looking for spot to set down. It was cold–22 degrees according to the car thermometer–but they have returned. I took a walk by the Winooski River at the end of the day, hoping to spot some birds newly arrived. No dice but I did see a couple of Cedar Waxwings. They have not been common in my haunts this winter.

As I brushed my teeth this morning my wife was excited to pop upstairs and tell me a Red-Winged Blackbird was right outside. And there it was. I walked outside and saw a few more. This is the first I have seen of them this spring. The past couple of years they have arrived a little earlier, but I hear there has been some snow farther south. That may have held them up.

I woke this morning to 11 degrees with a high forecast to be 19. Winter today. Snow flurries at the moment. The sun will be out, however. At some point. We have had some frosty mornings lately but it won’t be long before spring grabs the days and runs with them. I try to be deliberate about noticing the transition to spring. So often I hear that spring arrived “all of a sudden” when it really has been trudging toward us for a while.

I lit a fire in the stove this morning. The rising sun is melting the frost. Just about a year ago we had a big storm with two feet of snow. That doesn’t look to happen again this year, but March isn’t over yet. We will have a cold one today, then the sap will be running and the roads will be mud. Today it smells like wood smoke. Tomorrow it will smell like thawing earth.

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Another Four Days of Noticing Being on Camera

So I kept up looking for cameras after my first four and then second four days of trying to notice security and surveillance cameras that catch my image without my consent. Here is my summary.

Tuesday

I worked at two different middle schools but made no other stops.

Traffic cameras: 12
School cameras: 9

Total cameras: 21

Wednesday

I worked with students at one high school. I also made a stop at a health food market.

Traffic cameras: 14
School cameras: 8
Store cameras: 10

Total cameras: 32

Thursday

I worked with students at a different high school. I stopped at a gas station to get a cup of coffee.

Traffic cameras: 11
School cameras: 12
Gas station cameras: 6

Total cameras: 29

Friday

I met with students at a high school. I stopped to fuel my car. I went to a drive-through car wash. I attended an evening event at my town’s school.

Traffic cameras: 11
School cameras: 12
Gas station cameras: 6
Car wash cameras: 2

Total cameras: 31

This makes a total of 113 cameras for the four days. Over the twelve days of my experiment looking out for surveillance cameras I was captured at least 258 times. This does not count cameras that I may have passed more than once or cameras that I simply did not notice. I tried to be alert for any camera I might pass. That is no easy task, however. As I mentioned in previous posts, it takes practice and an observant eye to spot every camera. There were some over these 12 days that I noticed for the first time after passing them on previous days. I am confident that are some I did not see at all.

Security cameras have two purposes–to capture images of activity that may be useful to see after the fact, and to act as a deterrent. Most of them, I suppose, do some of both. I am more aware now, and I am done looking for them. I feel that I will see cameras more often than I did before, but sometimes I will just not notice. That was my hope.

I had planned to continue this experiment for at least a couple more days, but to be honest, I just forgot. I went into several stores over the weekend where, I am sure, I might have spotted more cameras, had I looked for them. I was too busy with my errands, however. So I called it good after twelve days. Not exactly a scientific experiment, but enough for my own purposes.

My image, whether up close or though a car window, was captured over 20 times per day on average over those 12 days. The lesson for me: be good, be aware, but also don’t worry about it. I don’t know that I feel safer because of all those cameras but I understand that they can be useful. I’m no Libertarian, but I’m not sure I like it all that much. It is the world we live in, however. This is Vermont for Pete’s sake, even if I am popping in an out of its most populous city. I can’t imagine how many cameras might be peeking at me if I lived in a large city. I will take 20 per day. I guess.

Not Spring Yet

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Lake Champlain at Shelburne Bay–ice as far as one can see

Lake Champlain froze over this year, as it did last year. It is not common that it freezes over two years in a row. It has been a cold winter. Last week we had several days of warmer weather. Temperatures got into the forties. Lots of snow melted. As I write this the temperature is 28 degrees and it is snowing like nuts with a howling wind. It isn’t spring yet.

I did get some time outside when the air was warmer. I always find the transition from season to season remarkable. This week I was amazed at the melting of so much snow. Today I have been amazed at just how wintry it is. I went for a run this afternoon. The wind whipped the falling snow into my face. It hurt. The storm seemed to be telling me to stay inside. I wasn’t out long.

Spring will come soon. I am still waiting for the return of Red Winged Blackbirds. Forget American Robins, some of whom stick around all winter. Red Winged Blackbirds are the real harbingers of spring. Once they arrive, Woodcocks and Song Sparrows, maple leaves and tulips, are not far behind. As of yesterday, the garden beds were just starting to emerge from the snow. Today they are covered again. I planted onion seeds in pots yesterday. They sit inside on the windowsill. By the time they are ready to transplant, this snow, like the snow that left us last week, will be clouds.

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LaPlatte River, March 3rd 2015; note the tracks on the snow on the ice

LaPlatte River, March 14 2015

Same view of the LaPlatte River, March 14 2015

More Cameras the Past Four Days

Here is an update on my attempt to watch out for surveillance and other video cameras that capture my image without my permission.

Friday

I worked at home part of the day and went into the office. I visited one elementary school. We then drove to Stowe for the weekend.

Traffic cameras: 7
Office building cameras: 3
Parking garage cameras: 3
School cameras: 2
Additional interstate traffic cameras: 2

Total cameras: 17

Saturday

I was a Trapp Family Lodge for the weekend with my family. I saw no security cameras there. We did go to a restaurant in town.

Restaurant cameras: 4

Total cameras: 4

Sunday

We drove home from Stowe without any stops.

Traffic cameras: 3
Additional interstate traffic cameras: 2

Total cameras: 5

Monday

I went to a school for my work with students. I made no other stops.

Traffic cameras: 10
School camera: 9

Total cameras: 19

This is a total of 45 cameras I noticed over four days. Add that to the 100 cameras I noticed the four days before and that totals 145 times I have been on camera over eight days. Again, I am sure I missed a few. They are not easy to notice. I am getting better at both remembering to look and at noticing. I will at least look through the rest of this week to see what I can see in terms of what sees me.

Looking Out for Cameras

I posted last week about how I have been interested in finding security and surveillance cameras in my community. My question has been this: how often are images of me taken without my permission or even my knowledge? I have been trying to pay attention to these stealthy cameras around me this week and I feel like I have done a pretty good job. Below is an update. To clarify a few things, I am only looking for cameras that might see me. Any that I know about that are nearby but not close enough to capture an image of me do not count. I also only count each camera once. If I pass by the same camera again the same day I don’t count it again. I do count separate cameras on their own, however. For example, I count each camera at an intersection when I get captured; if I head out and then back I count cameras pointed in both directions.

Monday

I worked at home most of the day but went into town to get some groceries. I made only one stop.

Traffic cameras: 6
Grocery store cameras: 15

Total cameras: 21

Tuesday

I went into the office, which is monitored by security cameras. I parked in a parking garage, also monitored. I stopped to get gas and did not go inside.

Traffic cameras: 9
Office building cameras: 7
Parking garage cameras: 3
Gas station cameras: 2

Total cameras: 21

Wednesday

I had a meeting a good distance away, at Jay Peak Resort. I stopped at a gas station to use the restroom.

Traffic cameras: 10
Gas station cameras: 7
Jay Peak Resort cameras: 15
Additional interstate traffic cameras: 4

Total cameras: 36

Thursday

I went to a school for my work with students. I stopped for a cup of coffee at a convenience store.

Traffic cameras: 14
School camera: 1
Convenience store cameras: 7

Total cameras: 22

Now some of these are duplicated on multiple days. I take the same route two days in a row, for example, so the traffic cameras are ones I might have passed the day before, but this tallies up to at least 100 times I have been on camera in the past four days, not including cameras I may have walked past more than once. I will keep my eye out the rest of the week, as well as next week. I have a pretty varied schedule over those days and will be in many different places, so it could be interesting.

Lots of Snow Still Sticking Around

IMG_0069Most winters we get some snow here and there, and the total we get adds up to a pretty decent amount. We also usually get rain, however, or at least a solid thaw. We don’t typically get lots of snow that stays on the ground as the kind of snow one can enjoy. It often turns to slush, or freezes solid enough to walk on. This year we have snow for skiing and it has been sticking around.

This past week was vacation week from school. All of us were home and we did not venture anywhere beyond our local haunts. This meant we went skiing several times. We leased skis for our kids this year, as we have the past couple of years. This is a good deal, first because they our kids are growing so fast that buying skis makes little sense financially; they will grow enough that the boots and skis are too small by the next season. As a bonus with the lease deal each set comes with an envelope of coupons. These include free or discount passes to local ski areas. Those coupons alone make it worth the lease. The amount we save with them more than pays for the lease. This past week we skied at Bolton Valley.

It was cold. It has been a cold winter and last week that cold continued. Some of the days last week we ruled out as ski days just because it would have been unpleasant. When the high temperature is forecast to be in the single digits in the valley, with strong winds, well, skiing just isn’t all that fun. It takes a lot of energy to ignore numb toes and frozen cheeks. It gets unsafe even. But we went when temperatures were in the teens, and the sun was shining. That was way fun. The last time we went was what one calls a Bluebird Day–clear skis and no wind and just awesome. We rode the lift up and skied our way down over and over, breaking only for lunch and heading home in the afternoon. Tons of fun.

When your kids are tuckered and they tell you “I love skiing” on the way home, you know you have hit the winning number. Since we live in a state with many ski areas, it makes sense to take advantage of that resource. The snow was great (not icy at all as it often can be when the snow fails to accumulate enough), the sun was shining, and we all have the skill to really just have a blast. Plenty of people will tell you they are sick of winter, but when we get so much snow, and it keeps piling up, I just cannot complain. I hate to complain anyway. That just seems like a waste of energy to me. Enjoy this now while it is here, I say. Spring will be here soon enough.